The modern VPN industry is flooded with competing services. Because of that, it can be hard to pick out what’s best for you. After all, each of them looks the same at first glance.
In this Private Internet Access review, we’ll take a closer look at the VPN provider’s features, interface, capabilities, and pricing. Once you’re done reading this, it’s guaranteed that you will know everything about the service. Hence, you’ll be able to determine if it’s the right one for you.
What is Private Internet Access? Private Internet Access (also called PIA) is a VPN based in the United States. Like most of its competitors, it claims to provide anonymity, privacy, and safety to its users. The VPN is well-known for its affordability, being one of the cheapest services out there. Besides that, many say it is one of the best VPNs for torrenting.
Here’s a table showing what we think are the main selling points and weaknesses of PIA:
|Very affordably priced||Tiny global server network|
|Zero leaks identified||Located in the United States|
|Torrenting allowed on every server||A small number of plans available|
|Strict no-log policy||Limited live chat support|
|Updated user-friendly applications|
We’ll begin this review with an overview of all the features Private Internet Access boasts:
Private Internet Access
|Logging Policy||No Logging|
|Jurisdiction||United States (Five-Eyes Member)|
SHA-256 Hash Authentication
4096-bit RSA Key Exchange
|Protocols||OpenVPN UDP |
|Ad and Malware Blockers||Yes|
|Leak Tests||No Leaks Found|
|Torrenting & P2P||Yes (On All Servers)|
Xbox One (Via Router)
PS4 (Via Router)
Nintendo Switch (Via Router)
|China||Sometimes (1 Out of 3 Servers Worked)|
|Additional Features||PIA MACE|
Special Offer: 73% off and 2 months free for a 2-year subscription
Privacy & Security
Privacy and security are the two most important things a VPN must provide. Failure to do so makes it useless. For that reason, this is what we’ll first tackle in this review.
Where is Private Internet Access Based & Who Owns It?
Private Internet Access is based in Denver, Colorado, USA, which puts it at a significant disadvantage. That’s because the United States is a member of the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance. It has automatic systems placed that gather and share intelligence with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.
Additionally, there’s also the Patriot Act, which gives authorities the power to collect and keep data. They can also make businesses log and share data while keeping them under a gag order to prevent disclosure.
Encryption & Protocols Used
Like other high-ranking services, Private Internet Access uses AES 256-bit military-grade encryption. As a backup, the service’s developers have also made AES-128 available.
Pairing the two encryptions stated above is an SHA-512 hash authentication and an RSA 4096-bit handshake.
PIA uses OpenVPN and its apps default to the OpenVPN protocol. Besides that, you also have the choice to pick between UDP and TCP connections. One exception is the VPN’s iOS app, which utilizes IPsec. Aside from everything, there’s also an option to switch to WireGuard on all desktop and mobile apps except for the iOS version.
Private Internet Access Leak Test
Leaks happen when your VPN fails to mask your IP address. When that occurs, you’re put at risk because your location can get identified. Anyone is going to be able to trace back all your online activities to yourself.
People that have your IP address don’t just have access to your online information. They can use it to find your home address and endanger you and your family. As such, it’s essential to check for leaks when you’re using a VPN. It would also be wise to check online DNS leak test reports by other users.
I was able to check for leaks by testing with IPLeak.net. Below are the results of my webRTC (web real-time communication) leak tests using PIA.
First, I ran the tests using my network without any VPN turned on.
This is my IP address screenshot now:
Following that, I activated PIA and connected it to their Singapore server.
Lastly, I ran the test while connected to the New York server.
As seen above, my real IP address becomes hidden once I’m connected to the VPN. The only things shown are the virtual public IP addresses used by Private Internet Access.
My tests have proven that PIA has zero leaks. You’ll get to use it safely and keep your real IP address hidden from others.
Does Private Internet Access Keep Logs?
Kape Technologies claims that Private Internet Access keeps no logs at all. That is even though it’s based within the jurisdiction of Five Eyes Alliance. While it’s required to comply with US laws, Private Internet Access has a good track record.
On two occasions, the government asked it to give up log data for a then-ongoing criminal investigation. During both times, no sort of information got handed over.
With everything said, I think it’s safe to say that Private Internet Access keeps no logs. It does, however, keep email and payment details, which is standard practice in the industry.
Does Private Internet Access Have A Kill Switch?
Yes. PIA does have a kill switch security feature. Each of the VPN’s apps has a built-in switch, making it great to use wherever you go.
All good VPNs must have a kill switch that automatically blocks traffic if the connection suddenly drops. With it comes the insurance that all traffic stays encrypted and protected. The feature comes especially in handy if you’re from an area with a poor connection. It’s also a must-have if you experience frequent power outages.
Luckily, all Private Internet Access’ apps have 3 kill switch modes:
- Off: Doesn’t block out traffic
- Auto: Blocks out outside traffic when on
- Always: Blocks out all traffic when off
Since I live an on-the-go lifestyle, I’ve found PIA’s kill switch to be helpful. It allows me to remain protected anywhere without any worries.
Does Private Internet Access Have an Ad and Malware Blocker?
Yes. The ad and malware blocker of Private Internet Access is called PIA MACE. It blocks advertisements, trackers, and malware domains.
Sadly, it cannot whitelist certain domains and doesn’t allow you to tweak the settings. Versus other ad blockers, Private Internet Access’ is not a great performer. Hence, I wouldn’t recommend that you use it as your main blocker.
If you’re looking for a VPN service with a better adblocker, I recommend NordVPN. It has highly-rated built-in blockers.
Is Private Internet Access Safe?
Yes. Private Internet Access is a VPN that you can rely on to keep you safeguarded whenever you browse the internet. It has a plethora of awesome security features that ensure your security and privacy.
While it’s based in the United States, the service has proven that it can still be trusted when it comes to not keeping logs. As such, there’s no need to worry about it giving up your information to the authorities when they ask for it.
User testimonies regarding PIA’s speed are mixed. Some claim that it’s really fast, while others say otherwise. Consequently, I wanted to see for myself what the truth was. After all, a VPN service that significantly slows down your internet is a service not worth having.
Here are the results of my tests. Below is a screenshot of my base connection without Private Internet Access on:
These are the results after connecting to PIA’s Singapore server:
And finally, here are the results after connecting to the New York Server:
As you can see, the results of my tests are unimpressive. Using PIA has significantly slowed down my download speed. Still, it did alright when it came to maintaining my upload speed.
How Fast is Private Internet Access?
I recommend that you use another VPN if you’re looking for quickness. Now, if you decide on using Private Internet Access, I suggest that you connect to a server that’s close to home. If that’s done, you’ll experience a way better connection.
Torrenting & P2P
PIA is a decent VPN to use for torrenting. The strict no-logs policy ensures that no records of your downloading activity get kept. All that is despite Private Internet Access falling under the US and, therefore, Five Eyes jurisdiction.
A port-forwarding feature also allows you to optimize performance. Moreover, P2P and file-sharing activity is allowed on all the VPN’s servers.
You’ll be glad to know that PIA is compatible with every popular torrent client. It won’t matter what app version of Private Internet Access you’re using. All of which can run your favorite torrenting software.
To see whether it’s safe to torrent using PIA, I decided to perform an IP leak test. To start things off, I did a test with the VPN not activated.
As seen, my legitimate IP address is shown.
Following that, I turned on Private Internet Access and connected it to its Singapore server.
To wrap things up, I repeated the process while connected to PIA’s New York Server.
The results of my tests made me happy. Private Internet Access succeeded at hiding my real IP address. The VPN has proven its worth to me, who’s a person that always has a torrent downloading.
Is Private Internet Access Good for Torrenting?
Yes. In summary, I’d have to say that PIA is an excellent choice for anyone that torrents. The service does not fail at maintaining the privacy of its users. It’s also loaded with features that make torrenting a better experience.
User reports regarding the streaming capabilities of Private Internet Access are mixed. Some say that it’s good whereas others don’t. Because of that, PIA isn’t famous for being a media-oriented VPN.
Does Private Internet Access Work with Netflix?
PIA claims that it can access geo-blocked content on many platforms. To see for myself what the VPN can handle, I decided to use it with Netflix. First, I got connected with its London server and tried to watch Kingsman.
To my dismay, the London server of Private Internet Access wasn’t able to access the movie.
I decided to give the VPN another shot after my initial failure. After experiencing a glitch with its California server, I settled for the New York one instead. The title I chose to watch was Spotlight.
My second attempt was successful. However, the platform wasn’t able to stream at its best resolution available. I attribute that hiccup to the geographical distance of the server.
What people say about Private Internet Access’ Netflix streaming capabilities is true. Its ability to stream depends on the server that you’re connected to. As a result, the number of titles that you’ll be able to access is limited.
Does Private Internet Access Work with Amazon Prime?
I wanted to see how PIA performed with another streaming service. Amazon Prime is my go-to Netflix alternative, so I decided to watch a title there.
Fortunately, the first server (New York) that I used worked like a charm. Private Internet Access was able to stream The Avengers successfully. Buffering was also absent, and I was able to view it in HD.
Does Private Internet Access Work on Firestick?
My preferred streaming device is Firestick. Due to that, I decided to see if PIA could work alongside it. To do this, I paired with the service’s New York server and watched a YouTube video that's unavailable in my country.
As predicted, PIA was able to bypass the geoblocks of Amazon’s Firestick. It even streamed the content in 1440p without any buffering.
Is Private Internet Access Good for Streaming?
Yes and no. My streaming experience with PIA was a mixed bag. Though I had a hard time with Netflix, PIA worked like a charm with Amazon Prime and Firestick. Still, I wouldn’t recommend the VPN to heavy video streamers like myself.
Check out our list of the best VPNs for streaming here.
Nope. Private Internet Access is not an ideal VPN service to use for gaming. Its sluggishness causes games to buffer and lag noticeably. It prevented me from playing Call of Duty Mobile smoothly. Because of that, I lost my match, which was truly frustrating.
You should note that PIA doesn’t have any native apps for consoles. As of now, there’s no way to use it with your PS4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Switch directly.
However, it is possible to still use Private Internet Access on your console by installing it on your router. The workaround lets you reap from the benefits of the service on any wifi-connected gaming device.
You must get a VPN with wide compatibility and many browser extensions. After all, not being able to use your VPN on your devices wouldn’t be nice. Fortunately, PIA’s developers have made it available on many platforms.
Yes. Users can access PIA using Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. The only OS that it has no app for is ChromeOS, which operates Chromebooks. If anything, it works on the devices of more than 95% of the population.
There are key differences that set each of Private Internet Access’ apps apart from each other. Some features are absent from particular app versions. For an overview, please refer to the table below:
|Protocol||Always On||PIA MACE||Split Tunneling||Proxy||Port Forwarding|
|iOS||OpenVPN, Wireguard, IKEv2||✗||✓||✗||✗||✗|
My experience with PIA on Windows has been nothing but good. That shouldn’t come as a surprise as that version has a complete set of features. Connecting to servers was effortless, and the app’s interface was user-friendly.
To learn more about Private Internet Access on your operating system, you can check out their official website.
Users of Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera can get PIA as a browser extension. It isn’t available on Tor, Microsoft Edge, and other browsers yet. Regular users of browsers that don’t have a Private Internet Access extension can opt to download the OS app instead.
PIA’s extensions work by directly connecting from your browser’s interface to the server. The traffic is then secured with Squid HTTPS. Due to that, only traffic from a browser will get secured. To fully protect your device, a full VPN is necessary.
Each browser extension of Private Internet Access comes with a variety of features and settings.
You’ll be able to stop websites from accessing your location, block peripherals like webcams and microphones, and bypass certain websites. Besides that, PIA’s extensions let you block third-party cookies, site referrers, and trackers.
I recommend that you fidget with the settings to see everything that’s offered. If you’re not tech-savvy, you can simply pick a location and click the connect button.
Yes. Private Internet Access can be installed on routers. The process isn’t hard, but the lack of an app calls for you to do it manually. It can be a hassle for people like myself that don’t like engaging in manual labor.
Regarding compatibility, the VPN works on DD-WRT, Lede, Merlin, PFSense, Tomato, and ASUSWRT routers.
Installing PIA to your router comes with a lot of benefits. First of all, any device that connects to that router will automatically gain VPN access. Hence, you’ll no longer need to download native apps. Additionally, you will get to use PIA on devices that it doesn’t have native apps for.
My suggestion is for you to go ahead and install Private Internet Access on your router. Getting it done may be more difficult, but the benefits are immense. That is especially true if you’ve chosen a long-term subscription.
All-encompassing compatibility is useless if a VPN service doesn’t allow for many simultaneous connections. Fortunately, PIA is one of the few services that lets you connect up to 10 devices at the same time. As such, it provides great value for money and is suitable for people with businesses and large households that need protection.
Private Internet Access has over 3300 servers in more than 40 countries. Although that number is less than what some competitors have, it’s still good. You should also consider the fact that PIA’s servers and locations will only increase with time.
The majority of Private Internet Access’ servers are found in the US, Germany, Canada, and the UK. Besides that, you can also connect some in the Middle East, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and East Asia.
It can be hard to select the right server with so many available. Thankfully, an advanced algorithm exists to automatically connect you to the best server based on your location.
VPNs should have many servers because it makes it easier to switch between locations. As a result, tracing users becomes a harder task. Furthermore, the more servers a VPN has, the less prone it is to getting overloaded.
Does Private Internet Access Work in China?
Sometimes. Users have managed to use PIA in heavily-censored places like Russia and North Korea. It has also been used in China with varying degrees of success. Of course, that shouldn’t come as a surprise given the effectiveness of the Great Firewall of China.
The Great Firewall of China refers to a system of tools used by the Chinese government to enforce mass censorship. Only the best VPN services can bypass it.
Private Internet Access doesn’t work consistently in China due to the absence of in-house obfuscation tech to hide VPN traffic. While PIA’s apps let you enable the Shadowsocks proxy, it isn’t as good of an alternative to proprietary obfuscation tools.
Because of its unreliability, I do not recommend PIA for bypassing the Great Firewall of China. You’ll be better off with other services like SurfShark, which has advanced features called Camouflage and NoBorders Mode.
Interface & Usability
PIA has minimalistic apps on all platforms. My experience with the Windows version has been nothing but good. I found the interface to be simple and user-friendly. As a matter of fact, even individuals that aren’t tech-savvy will be able to use it with ease.
After opening it, you’ll first notice the large quick-connect button that pairs you to the best server according to your location. To access a full list of servers, simply click on the “VPN SERVER” button below. Meanwhile, you can head to the setting by clicking on the three-dot icon on the top right corner of the app.
Does Private Internet Access Have Split Tunneling?
Yes. Private Internet Access does have split tunneling. Thanks to that, you can give certain sites and services your real info without having to turn the VPN off. If anything, this adds a whole new level of convenience to the PIA experience.
PIA doesn’t have any unique features that make it stand out. Like ExpressVPN, the service chooses to focus on essential VPN features. In a sense, that is a good thing as it does not resort to gimmicks to impress and attract more users.
Only paying customers have access to PIA’s live chat support. Consequently, non-paying individuals won’t be able to simply inquire about their services.
Despite its claims to have 24/7 chat support for paying customers, reports have shown Private Internet Access to have slow response times. People have claimed to chat in the middle of the night only to get an answer the next morning.
To get a comprehensive understanding of what PIA offers in terms of customer support, please refer to the table below:
- Live Chat Support: Yes
- Email Support: Yes
- Phone Support: No
- Ticket Support: Yes
- Video Tutorials: No
- Average Response Time: 39 Minutes
- Online Knowledge Base: Yes
You’ll be glad to know that Private Internet Access is one of the cheapest VPNs available. At just $9.95 a month, it’s a definite bargain. There are two long-term plans available for those looking to commit.
Here’s a table showing all of PIA’s plans and their corresponding prices:
- Monthly: $9.95/month
- 1 Year: $3.33/month
- 2 Years: $2.69/month
- Special offer: 73% discount for a 2-year plan + 2 months free
The first long-term plan is a yearly subscription that costs $3.33 a month or $39.95 per year. I wouldn’t recommend this, however, as the second plan is better. For just $2.69 a month or $69.95 per 2 years, you’ll have 2 years of access. You also get 2 months for free on top of that.
Payment is easy as there are many methods available. Some of which allow you to remain anonymous. To make things easier, I’ve made a list of every way you can pay for your PIA subscription:
- Credit Card – Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, Discover, JCB
- Gift Cards (more than 90 retailers)
- Bitcoin/Bitcoin Cash
As you can see, Private Internet Access has made way for everyone to pay. The option to remain anonymous doing so gives it a huge advantage too.
Refund Policy & Money-Back Guarantee
PIA has recently extended its money-back guarantee to 30 days. Hence, you’ll be eligible for a refund for one month after subscribing. This is great as there’ll be no worries if you find the service unsatisfactory.
Deals, Coupon Code & Free Trial
Unfortunately, there isn’t a free trial available for potential PIA users. Hence, you’ll need to shell out some cash to give the Private Internet Access a shot.
A workaround to use the VPN without risks fortunately exists. It has a 30-day money-back policy that enables you to acquire an automatic refund if you're unsatisfied.
Our team knows that you’re trying to find the best deal available. Sadly, we weren’t able to find any coupon codes for PIA. The only deals available are those that are listed on the VPN’s website. Luckily, these deals are already great.
Is Private Internet Access worth it?
Yes and no. Private Internet Access is a long-established VPN service provider with a good reputation. It has been a leader in the industry that has unfortunately been surpassed by the competition. Services like Surfshark and NordVPN have taken over due to PIA’s failure to innovate.
The VPN’s server network is decently-sized but not impressive. Its inability to flawlessly stream Netflix everywhere makes it unideal for movie buffs. The rate at which it slows down connections severely limits users. Gaming and live streaming are next to impossible on some servers.
Despite its downsides, Private Internet Access does have some redeeming qualities. People can subscribe to it at a low price. It’s also compatible with many devices and has apps with user-friendly interfaces. Lastly, the VPN is optimized for torrenting.